Lady Gaga's Lead Choreographer Looks Back on 7 Iconic Videos
If you've gone gaga for Lady Gaga's elaborate and out-there music videos, you've probably admired Richy Jackson's work. Jackson has been by Lady Gaga's side for almost a decade, and since late 2011, he's been the superstar's lead choreographer and visual director. (Jackson has also worked with other artists like Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj and Meghan Trainor, and on various commercial gigs.) Here, he opens up about his inspirations, challenges and favorite memories from seven iconic Lady Gaga videos.
"Just Dance" (2008)
"My first impression of Lady Gaga was that she's a force of nature. She was something pop music hadn't experienced yet. I immediately loved the conviction she has about her craft and artistry; she knows what she wants. 'Just Dance' was mostly freestyle, rather than fully choreographed. So, on top of dancing in the video, my job was to be there for Gaga if she had questions, to work with the background talent and the lead extras, and to help the director set up some of the shots."
"Bad Romance" (2009)
"This is one of my favorite videos of all time! 'Bad Romance' has such a cool vampire-esque brothel vibe. One of the great things about working with Gaga is that we get to try different aesthetics all the time. It's never one lane or one approach. I listened to the song, and I immediately knew how we should be moving. The choreography just poured out."
"Having Beyoncé and Lady Gaga in one room was phenomenal. Beyoncé learned the routine on set; I had her for an hour, and then we had to shoot it. I tried to inspire her: 'You and Gaga have just killed a diner full of people, and now we're gonna dance. Go into this routine with that intent, and it'll make sense.' They looked so great together. I loved their energy, those dancers, that diner—it was timeless."
"Near the opening of 'Alejandro,' there's a group of guys at the top of a hill, in silhouette, and the idea was to make them move down it in about 32 counts. I had to choreograph that section on set. Imagine a roomful of people watching, and they say, 'You have 10 minutes!' "
"Born This Way" (2011)
"In 'Born This Way,' it was less about pop music's sexiness, and more about making a statement. The dance had to go somewhere else. We had to stretch. So, you'll spot some jazz and modern in there, along with the sexy pop tone."
"We shot 'G.U.Y.' at Hearst Castle in California. That shoot was supposed to be two days, but it turned into five or six. The first few days, the property was closed for us, but on the extra days, there were tourists there. We had tons of dancers bussed in, synchronized swimmers and the venue had certain limits—and yet the hardest part was stopping tourists from taking pictures while we were shooting."
"John Wayne" (2017)
"'John Wayne' has a girl section, a boy section and a couples section where they're literally dancing on each other. To me, that song is rough, rugged and jagged, so I thought, the couples' choreography needs to be rougher and tougher than you usually see. The girls hop on the guys' backs and control them. The choreography extends not only the message of the song, but also the way it feels."